Vadra grilled for 5 hours, denies any wrongdoing

Vadra grilled for 5 hours, denies any wrongdoing

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (left) and husband Robert Vadra outside the Enforcement Directorate in New Delhi on Wednesday. Reuters

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra's husband Robert Vadra was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for over five hours in a money-laundering case on Wednesday, which the Opposition claimed as one aimed at the Lok Sabha elections.

Priyanka, who returned from New York two days ago, made a political statement by dropping Vadra at the ED office in the capital around 3.45 pm and then driving to the Congress headquarters to take charge as the party secretary after telling reporters that the "world knows what is happening".

Vadra left ED office around 9.45 pm.

While Vadra has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, Priyanka said, "He is my husband. He is my family and I stand by him," in an indication that the Congress will fight any move by the government against Vadra ahead of polls. Congress President and Priyanka's brother Rahul Gandhi was not in Delhi when Priyanka took charge.

According to the ED, the case relates to money-laundering in the purchase of a London-based property — located at 12, Bryanston Square — worth 1.9 million pounds. The property is claimed to be owned by Vadra, which he vehemently denied.

Vadra has got interim protection from arrest till February 16 after he approached a court seeking relief. While providing him interim protection, the court had directed him to join the investigation on February 6 by 4 pm, while on Wednesday morning, a Delhi court extended the interim bail given to Vadra's associate Manoj Arora till February 16. 

Several Congress leaders as well as West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee questioned the ED move. Mamata said it was an attempt "not to allow Opposition parties to unite".

Sources said Vadra's statement was recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). This is the first time that Vadra has appeared before the ED.

He was asked about certain transactions, purchase and possession of certain immovable assets in London, they said, adding that a team of seven officers led by a joint director-level officer shot around 40 questions at him.

He was asked about his links with controversial arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari and his aide Manoj Arora among others. Sources said Vadra denied having any property either directly or indirectly in London. Some reports of the agencies earlier claimed that Bhandari has bought the property for Vadra in London, which was denied by Vadra and his lawyers.

Investigators had recently told a court that they have received information about various new properties in London which belong to Vadra, including two houses of five and four million each, six other flats and more properties.

Vadra had claimed in the court that he was being subjected to "unwarranted, unjustified and malicious criminal prosecution which on the face of it is completely politically motivated and is being carried out for reasons other than those prescribed under law".

The ED had carried out raids in this case in December last year on the premises of a firm linked to Vadra in Delhi. It also questioned Arora.